CoBL Staff (@hooplove215)
On Sunday, Team Final hosted its annual scrimmages at Chase Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Del., where some nearby programs on the East Coast got their first taste of AAU basketball this season. CoBL had four reporters in attendance and was able to get its eyes on a solid portion of the day’s slate.
Here’s who stood out in the games CoBL watched on Sunday:
Mason Blackwood (2024 | City Rocks | Aquinas Institute, N.Y.)
Blackwood showed off his impressive athleticism in City Rocks’ dominant 72-33 win over Team Final Red. Blackwood had a couple of monster dunks and was punishing inside the paint, bullying smaller defenders. He scored 12 points, to lead his team in scoring. Blackwood has a single offer from Sienna, but is looking to build on that by getting in front of more college coaches this summer. He’ll be playing on the EYBL circuit at big tournaments against high level players, where he’ll get to show off his lateral quickness and lockdown defense.
Isaiah Coleman (2023 | Team Melo | National Christian Academy, Md.)
One of the main reasons Team Melo put their afternoon game against Jersey Force out of reach was Isaiah Coleman. Coleman is playing point guard for the first time in his basketball career after primarily being a wing player or 2-guard at National Christian Academy (Md.), and he was impressive. The 6-5 guard scored ten points, knocking down two three and showcasing the downhill driving ability, which has earned him offers from schools like Miami, LSU, Maryland, Louisville and more. This summer, Coleman is looking to improve his playmaking ability, specifically his decision-making when coming off a screen.
Team Melo 2023 G Robert Davis Jr. (Photo: Zak Wolf/CoBL)
Robert Davis Jr. (2023 | Team Melo | SoCal Academy, Cal.)
The sweet-shooting guard was another piece in Team Melo’s win. Davis had ten points on three three-pointers, including an and-one in a short run during the decisive victory. The 6-6 guard was once again a prolific scorer in his home state of Michigan, dropping 20+ points multiple times and surpassing 1,000 high school career points at Hamtramck (Mi.). Davis currently holds offers from schools like Toledo, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Denver, Austin Peay and UMass and will be taking a prep year at SoCal Academy (Ca.) before making a final decision.
Justin Edwards (2023 | Team Final Blue | Imhotep Charter)
Edwards was easily the most impactful player on Team Final’s top group, making key plays in key moments in a win over Team Melo. His ability to command a game continues from the high school level to the elite AAU circuit. It could not have been demonstrated more than when a scrimmage was on the line and Edwards played as if was a state playoff game in March. When Edwards left the court, Final trailed. When he came back on, Team Final surged ahead. It wasn’t by accident.
Tafara Gapare (2023 | Team Melo | South Kent, Conn.)
Gapare turned heads in his outing against Jersey Force on Sunday. The lengthy New Zealand native, who arrived in the US in January, made his presence known on the defensive end picking up three blocks and a steal in the first half, with two of those blocks coming right at the rim, turning away Force players’ dunks. In the 65-35 win, the 6-10 center, who just completed a prep season at South Kent (Ct.), also showed off his range, knocking down a three-pointer. However, his scoring output and minutes were low in the second half because of his team's performance. Still, he showed why he is currently generating interest from several division 1 schools, including offers from schools like Maryland and Virginia Tech. Gapare is still deciding what’s next in his basketball career because of a visa situation, but when he makes his decision, he will be looking for a program that has been effective in developing international players.
Ian Harvey-Williams (2023 | Team Final Black | TBD)
In the early slate against Team Final Red, Harvey-Williams kept his team alive for the majority of the contest thanks to a 15 point outing. The 6-1 guard scored all of his points in either the paint or at the free throw line and showed off his athleticism by throwing down a dunk. Harvey-Williams spent the past season at St. Joe’s Hampton (N.J.) but is reclassifying to 2023 where he will do a prep year at a school TBD, although he said it will likely be Olympus Prep (N.J.); he is currently drawing interest from Fairleigh Dickinson and Florida Gulf Coast.
Braxton Jones (2023 | Jersey Force | Roselle Catholic, N.J.)
Jersey Force made waves early in the day by defeating Team Final’s 17u team, and Braxton Jones played a large part in the win. Coming off of helping Roselle Catholic (Nj.) capture the Tournament of Champions trophy, the 6-0 guard dropped 9 points (7 in the second half) to help push the Force over Team Final. Thus far, Jones' game has been based around his catch-and-shoot ability, which is why this summer, he is working on his shot off the dribble and developing his voice as a leader. Jones currently has interest from Quinnipiac, Maryland, St. Francis and other schools in the Patriot, NEC and MAAC.
Christian Pierre-Louis (above) has had two older brothers play at least one season at Temple. (Photo: CoBL Staff)
Christian Pierre-Louis (2023 | Jersey Force | Roselle Catholic, N.J.)
Jones’ Roselle Catholic teammate Christian Pierre-Louis was also pivotal in the win scoring 16 points. And the energy that made his Roselle Catholic team call him the ‘glue guy’ was on display as the 6-2 guard was often diving for loose balls and securing rebounds amongst the taller players. Pierre-Louis’ brother, Nate, plays with the South Bay Lakers in the G-League and his other brother, Josh, plays for UC Santa Barbara. Christian’s defense has colleges like Sienna, UC Santa Barbara and several Ivy League schools interested. But he wants to use the summer to improve on offense and prove his two-way potential.
Acaden Lewis (2024 | Team Melo | St. John’s College, Md.)
The crafty lefty showed off his scoring ability against Team Final, leading all players with 16 points. Lewis scored in all different ways, driving the ball, using his mid-range pull up as well as knocking down a pair of deep three pointers. He went back and forth with Rob Wright III, both of whom traded buckets in a battle between two EYBL teams. The combo guard is very good at crossing over and getting back to his stronger left hand, but he knows that he needs to be stronger going to his right moving forward. Lewis has interest from George Mason and George Washington, but is excited to get in front of college coaches this summer on the AAU circuit.
Ruben Rodriguez (2023 | Team Final Red | Reading, Pa.)
A 6-foot-1 guard out of Reading, Rodriguez is incredibly quick and can get to the basket at will. Against Team Final Black, Rodriguez scored 16 points, all coming on either layups or dunks and his squad controlled the contest throughout. In addition to his scoring ability, Rodriguez showed off his impressive court vision, dropping dime after dime leading to some easy buckets for his teammates. Rodriguez currently holds two division one offers and has interest from multiple other programs.
Zion Stanford (2023 | Team Final | West Catholic)
The biggest bright spot in Team Final’s loss to Jersey Force was Zion Stanford. In his first summer with Team Final (coming from K-Low Elite), the rising senior will be spending the summer fine-tuning his perimeter shot creation and in-between game. Standing at 6-5 205lbs, Stanford has already shown an ability to finish through a crowd at the rim, and he wants to become a more versatile offensive player. Against Jersey Force, he finished with 15 points, including one three-pointer and two post fadeaways. He is currently holding offers from St. Joseph’s, Drexel, Albany, Bryant and Fairfield.
Robert Wright III (2024 | Team Final | Neumann Goretti)
A key player on Philadelphia Catholic League champions Neumann Goretti, Wright is once again running with a stacked squad, but this time on the AAU circuit. The 6-foot guard showed out in Team Final 16u’s blowout win over Jersey Force, scoring 13 points, doing most of his damage inside; in his second game, against Team Melo, he scored 16 points, finishing around the basket well and using his floater in the lane. Wright already has caught the eye of several high major schools, sporting offers from Syracuse, Seton Hall, Wake Forest, Wichita State, VCU, Miami and more.
Honorable mentions: Solomon Ball (2023 | Team Melo | St. James School, Va.), Jalil Bethea (2024 | Team Final | Archbishop Wood), Sam Brown (2023 | Team Final | Lower Merion), Nick Coval (2024 | Team Final | Parkland), Jayden Holmes Cotter (2023 | Jersey Force | Freehold Township, N.J.), Cyril Martynov (2023 | Team Final | Lawrenceville, N.J.), Liam Rardin (2023 | Team Final Black | Abington), Jayden Ross (2023 | Team Melo | St. James School, Va.), Thomas Sorber (2024 | Team Final | Archbishop Ryan), Ace Valentine (2023 | Team Melo | Mt. St. Joe, Md.), Amir Williams (2024 | Team Final | Neumann Goretti),